USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- "The first time I saw the carrier, it was huge. And when I flew on it, it was small, very small," said Capt. Reto Kunz of Willisau, Switzerland.
Kunz recently became the first Swiss pilot to land on USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) flight deck.
Kuntz, a pilot for the Swiss air force for 11 years, boarded the ship July 9, just before the two-week underway. By July 12, he was flying an F/A-18 Hornet, taking off and landing on a carrier for the first time. Kunz came aboard Truman as part of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. His job on this underway is to instruct junior pilots on flying Hornets.
Landing a plane on the flight deck of a carrier is a much different experience than landing ashore, said Kunz.
"The safe landing area on the field is probably the total landing area you have on a carrier, so you have to be more precise," he said.
While pilots for the U.S. Navy are trained to take off and land on both land and carriers, Swiss pilots are trained only to fly on to land, said Kunz. Switzerland is also a neutral nation, so the Swiss air force serves only as a defense for the country.
"We don't even have the possibility to attack," said Kunz.
Switzerland requires every male to serve in the military, according to Kunz. Females may choose to join, but are not required to.
"In Switzerland, every male gets a profession and then joins the military between the ages of 19 and 22," said Kunz.
Kunz taught math to children between the ages of six and 18 before he joined the air force. He continued his career in the air force because he enjoyed flying, he said. Pilots in the Swiss air force undergo six weeks of intensive training and then are required to fly at least two flights once a month after that, said Kunz.
Kunz said that life aboard a carrier seems like a pretty good living. He found living aboard a carrier to be a new and interesting experience. He even earned his "Wings of Gold" for landing a Hornet aboard Truman. He wears it on his green flight suit along with a VFA-106 patch.
"It's just awesome. The whole thing is a great experience. It's just something you can't ever see anywhere else than on a carrier," he said.
Whether it's from a carrier or from land, flying is the real reward, said Kunz. "Flying is so awesome. It's hard work, but every time you go airborne, you get paid up for it."
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.